Reviewby Mark Sombillo, Mar 10th 2011
DVD - The Resonance - Complete Series
The Dragonauts are an elite bunch of soldiers, riding the Dragons that were created and raised by humans. The Dragons themselves are powerful creatures but whom had formed bonds with their riders by “resonating” with them, a bond that meant they cannot disobey their master's will. All of this is in anticipation of an alien terror that has in the past unleashed its own Dragons towards Earth and caused tragedy to unfold. Called Thanatos, the alien entity has destroyed and now occupies the old orbit of Pluto, having been dormant since the last time it made its presence known to man. In that event two years ago, Jin found himself inexorably tangled as the shuttle that was carrying himself and his family towards the moon was struck, leaving him the only survivor. The controversy and cover-up that ensued afterwards left him not just without his family but also emotionally cut off. But now as the Dragonauts are mobilised and various factions vie for power, Jin not only finds himself caught up but actually at the centre of all the commotion. And it's all thanks to Toa, the one person in the world that has taken his loneliness away. Toa also known as the Album, the girl that everybody is after for the power that she holds.
Let's talk about fan service for a moment. It's a PG way of saying “get a load of them knockers, fellas!” or in a less brash, subtler manner “saddle up Dorothy, you're going for a ride.” What I've just said probably doesn't make much sense, and in a way fan service isn't meant to. It's supposed to be just there to titillate the senses and offer a different angle to enjoy the show by, and I personally have no real qualms about that. It's just one of those things you assume will happen in an anime, morality not withstanding.
However when you talk about style instead of morals, then I believe there are some rules that, even in anime circles should be followed. Rules of which I believe Dragonaut has unwittingly broke. Essentially one way or another you're meant to notice fan service, but unless it's the focus of the story or a major plot device, it shouldn't distract you from the main narrative. Take Evangelion for example; it's easy to see that the show indeed does have fan service, but notably most of the obvious ones are in light hearted and comical moments and never during the points when Shinji is muttering, “I mustn't run away”. Yes there are naked scenes in serious moments too such as when Rei is inside a glass tube contraption, but they were used artistically and did not incorporate excessive breast bouncing.
So basically Dragonaut crumbles down to a show with very serious themes both in the narrative and in the characterisation, but with terribly distracting fan service! I hope I've digressed enough about this particular aspect of the show to relate to you just how much it affected my viewing enjoyment. I think I won't even bother going into detail regarding the fact that the fan service design isn't even all that alluring to begin with.
Forgetting for a minute the fan service side of the character design, the art work is fairly average at best. When it comes to the design of the Dragons though, I feel as if I've gone back to the late 90s in terms of the quality of the CG. If you've ever seen the first rendition of Transformers: Beast Wars then you'll have a fair clue of what I'm talking about. They just seem so awkward looking and certainly lacking the dynamics of animation found even in the most modest of anime released in 2008. Reports just prior to its premier in Japan have indicated that indeed even by the time they began broadcasting, it would still be under development and this lack of polishing really showed.
The story is quite fascinating and I liked the concept of using a little bit of introduction prior to the opening song to tell the back story behind the events that are occurring in the main plot. Anywhere from a couple of decades ago to the last few years, flashbacks show how each of the characters developed the motivations they currently have as well as explanations of key elements in the story. In a way this is probably slightly more frustrating than if you just dedicated an entire episode to explaining the mythology of the show, but I believe the advantage of being able to just get on with the narrative at full pelt negates this.
That said, though the core story is interesting I really can't say it's extremely original either. On top of this, every character conforms to their stereotypes so well that indubitably it becomes quite hard to be surprised of any supposedly explosive character revelations. An attempt at creating a unique individual appeared in the form of Keiichi, Jin's childhood friend. He started off as another fairly dull and generic best-friend-from-the-past-that-want-to-hold-on-to-a-promise-made but events of the story transformed him into something a lot less forgiving. It might have worked if he was shown to be neurotic to begin with but as it was, the makeover was so clumsy that it failed to make sense.
In the end, clumsy is probably the best way to describe the entire presentation of an otherwise interesting story. There's just so much backwards and forwards going on that even by the middle point, it felt like we've gotten nowhere. The dialogues were equally a mixture of proclamations and retractions that eventually it became hard to really tell any more where the alliances lay. This is not a good way of keeping your audience guessing.
Such directorial ineptitude is surprising given the show's high profile voice actors like Aya Hirano, Minori Chihara (heck, pretty much the entire cast of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is here) and Mamoru Miyano (Death Note, Star Driver Kagayaki no Takuto, to name a few titles to his name) and a backing by Gonzo (famous for such titles as Last Exile). I can't really figure out why all these foibles surfaced to begin with but unfortunately they're there to mar an otherwise good story. I came into this show hoping to properly promote the show but honestly, you're not going to miss anything if you gave this a pass. Or maybe get it for the fan service.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : C-
Art : C-
Music : B
+ Interesting story that builds up quite well.
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